An Occasional Christian Reflection on the Systemic Plague of Racism

I want to say more on racism, and I will; I think the Virginia uprisings serve as an appropriate prompt to offer reflection, from a Christian theological perspective on the evil that has come to be known as racism. I lieu of a more developed reflection on this topic I thought I would simply share something I just wrote (on Facebook) in response to a good friend of mine regarding the ills of racism. You might be able to infer some of my friend’s points about how he views racism, and how he thinks we ought to approach it, by the way I respond. Here’s what I wrote:

I think “racism,” is actually a systemic issue so deep rooted in our identities as sinners that it has become normal for people. The Gospel says no to such “normalcy,” and says no and contradicts the principalities and powers that would have us remain complacent or defeatist about such things. So I actually think that racism is just as much a part of us as sinners as is sexual perversion (which the Bible calls us on over and over), as is classism, as is nationalism, as is elitism, as is so on and so forth. So we are in a battle, not just in our own homes, but in the world in general; the battle we are engaged in is cosmic in its proportions such that we walk by the Spirit making no provision for the “flesh” to fulfill its lusts (which would include “racism”).

In re to this issue: I actually think the White supremacy we see on display in Virginia is like the proverbial tip of the ice-berg, and that such attitudes are much more resident in all of us than we would like to admit. So I see this as an occasion, what’s going on in Virginia, to take a look once again, at how we might have allowed certain attitudes or perceptions to creep into our lives unawares. I mean that’s how sin works, it has a “creeping” function, it’s subtle, and before we know it we have outlooks and attitudes that are actually pitting us against the power of God, the Gospel, rather than bearing witness to it against the principalities and powers in this world system (that concept comes straight from Scripture i.e. “world system”).

Beyond that, the point of the resurrection of Jesus Christ shows that there is a continuity and/or correspondence between this world and the new world (Rev 21–22) to come; insofar as there is a correspondence between Jesus’s pre-resurrected body and his resurrected body as an analogy (and there is). So to think about things from that vantage point means that we don’t think about this world going to “hell in a hand basket,” but that we see a continuity between now and the not yet; and we allow the “not yet” of the Kingdom of God in Christ to form our “ethics” and perceptions now. So we walk by faith, not by sight. But we don’t give into the defeated idea that there will never be a country or time where there will not be hatred or racism; the Gospel says exactly the opposite—indeed that’s our hope. It’s not an abstract or “Platonic” hope; heaven is not a place removed from this world, but in fact heaven came to earth in Jesus Christ, and He’s coming again.

I agree we need to live our lives, impact those around us, raise our children right, do unto others, etc, but none of that is done in a vacuum; none of that is done, in the Kingdom, from an individualistic or purely utilitarian/pragmatic perspective. We live as principled creatures, creatures that live and participate in and from the principled and holy life of God in Jesus Christ. So we live our lives, but we live them realizing that they are not our own; realizing that we’ve been bought with a price, and as such we stand in the way of the evils in this world—whether that be in our homes, or globally. We pray. When we pray with our families, with those around us, we have reach into the system of this world that indeed has a “global” impact, one that will implicate not just those “out there,” but those closest to us in Jerusalem, then out to Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. The Gospel is not just particular in focus, but it is universal and cosmic; we live from that. We live from a value center, so to speak, that is expansive and that has reach down to the bone and marrow of each and every person on this earth.